National Swedish Day on 6 June is the perfect opportunity to embrace a more Swedish way of living. What can one of the world’s happiest nations teach us?
We may associate Sweden with ABBA, meatballs and IKEA, but as one of the top ten happiest nations according to the World Happiness Index, there is a lot we can learn from our Nordic neighbours for a happier, healthier and more balanced lifestyle.
National Swedish Day (Wednesday 6 June) provides the perfect excuse to make some changes at home and work, Swedish style…
Catharina Björkman, lifestyle expert from Swedish wood burning stove company Contura, has devised a handy guide to help Brits embrace their inner Swede.
1. Eat outdoors
With winter over and long, hazy summer days on the horizon, Swedes can often be found enjoying an outdoor BBQ. You don’t need a large space to enjoy eating al fresco, bring your kitchen table outside and add fairy lights or flowers for a simple and stylish look. BBQs aren’t just for burgers, try grilled sardines or prawns on toast, known toast skagen, for a truly summery Swedish treat.
2. Style up the skohylla
It’s customary in Sweden to take your shoes off before entering a house, so make like the Swedes by styling up your shoe-shelf, skohylla, by replacing winter boots with sandals, pumps and summer footwear. Don’t clutter lots of shoes on the shelf, style it artfully and remember – less is more. Take it one step further by going barefoot as much as possible, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of grass between your toes.
3. Embrace Allemansratten
Thanks to Allemansratten or The Right to Public Access, Swedes can roam the countryside largely without restriction. Embrace the “Freedom to Roam” mantra and head outdoors for a fix of exercise and some fresh air. Plan a camping trip with the kids, or try hiking, climbing, kayaking or rambling… it beats pounding the treadmill at your local gym.
4. Death Clean your home
In Sweden, there is a kind of decluttering called döstädning, dö meaning "death" and städning meaning "cleaning." Embracing a minimalist style and getting rid of unwanted possessions are key principles, keeping only meaningful items (such as photos and love letters) that add value and happiness to your life. Death cleaning aims to get rid of clutter and provide a fresh, calming interior, whilst also helping get used to the idea of letting go.
5. Learn some Swedish
Swedish has many words with no direct translation to English: fika, having a 15-minute coffee break to enjoy a chat and piece of cake; Blåsväder meaning “stormy weather” and used when there’s trouble brewing; and of course, lagom, not too little, not too much, which can be applied to pretty much everything. Before you know it, you’ll be throwing in Swedish phrases like a pro: “Let’s enjoy a spot of fika before this conference call.”
6. Lagom living
A stalwart Swedish value, lagom is about embracing a more balanced life, not too little, not too much. The word derives from a shortening of the phrase “laget om” meaning “around the team” from the Viking tradition of passing mead around a group. Lagom can be applied to everything; it’s inviting your new neighbours around for a group meal, sharing a great evening with family and friends, even joining a new sports team. Taking part and sharing life’s experiences will make you feel happier and fulfilled (e.g. more Swedish) as a result.
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